High School Notebook: Central continues regular season streak
Published 7:02 am Tuesday, August 29, 2023
It’s now 12 straight regular season victories and counting for Central High, as the team erased an early deficit in their 2023 home opener against Altavista and held off the Colonels, 26-14.
“We don’t like to do anything the easy way,” quipped Central coach Will Thomas. “They’ve got some big guys and they’re improved. We just had so many mistakes and that strip for a return hurt us. We did play pretty well defensively in the first half and offensively we moved the ball.”
Central appeared to be on its way to scoring first after moving the chains near the red zone.
However, a strip and fumble that Altavista returned roughly 70 yards for a touchdown, followed by a successful two-point conversion, allowed the Colonels to take an 8-0 lead. Thomias Morrison had a 12-yard scoring run to pull the Chargers within one. Morrison also picked off a pass late in the second quarter. Before intermission, fellow senior Connor Mattox scored to put Lunenburg up 14-8 at the break.
Previously the team’s starting quarterback, Mattox moved to running back and flourished with 24 attempts for 159 yards and three touchdowns on the night. It gave sophomore Reece Hart his first start at quarterback.
“They were loading the box and daring us to throw,” Thomas noted. “Even though we only completed one pass, we needed it because it was like third-and-9 in the first half to keep that second touchdown drive alive. We got exactly nine with Reece completing it to Seth Bishop.”
Central pushes the lead
Mattox ran in the second of his three touchdowns in the third period to push the lead to 20-8. Altavista cut the deficit to 20-14 in the fourth quarter. That’s when Mattox broke off a long scamper to put the game away.
“We like those big plays because it’s less of a chance of fumbling or screwing up,” remarked Thomas, lamenting some of the miscues that kept the game close.
“Our first two scrimmages, we did the same thing. We get to the goal-line against Madison and fumbled, or against Colonial Heights we moved the ball pretty good, but just couldn’t quite finish.”
Junior halfback Amarion Moore had 15 rushes for 93 yards, while Morrison chipped in 11 carries for 68 yards. Defensively, Mattox recorded nine tackles, one for loss and a forced fumble. Seth Bishop contributed seven tackles. Sophomore Conner Buchanan also stepped up by thwarting a scoring drive for Altavista with an interception in the end zone on fourth-and-goal.
“We’ve got a lot of kids that are not only young, but their first year of playing football was last year,” Thomas said. “We’re just green and working on the football smarts. I think that comes with putting yourselves in situations that you’re not used to, and as a coach even though you’ve got to be patient, you always want them to get better yesterday.”
Road test coming
Now Central goes on the road, where they’ll face William Campbell.
On paper, it looks like William Campbell ran over Cumberland. But that’s not exactly true. The majority of the points in last Friday’s 46-16 win were scored in the first half. The Dukes held William Campbell scoreless in the third and most of the fourth quarter.
Enter the Chargers, who will try to notch their fourth straight victory over the Generals and even up the all-time series at 11-apiece.
“William Campbell is good. They can sling it, run and are physical,” Thomas added. “They always play us tough.”
Kenston Forest starts with a win
Last season was a rough one for the Kenston Forest Kavaliers. Going 3-7, the team gave up 126 points more than they scored. They also finished with a four-game losing streak, including a 56-0 final against Brunswick Academy. But there was a benefit, as many players of the young team got their first real game experience on the high school level.
Now that experience is paying off. The Kavaliers beat Greenbrier Christian Academy 36-14 in the season’s first game. Now Kenston Forest plays a bit different, as they and the Virginia Independent Schools Football League in general, use 8 on 8 rules.
This is mainly used by schools and divisions with smaller enrollments. Typically, most offenses have two fewer offensive tackles and one less receiver, but a creative coach can mix and match. Players also compete on a smaller field. The width of the field is 40 yards. That’s about 13 1/3 narrower than the traditional field, which is 53 1/3 wide. All of that translates to a much faster game than regular high school football, with scores that can reach the 70s at times.
The Kavaliers will now prepare for Massanutten Military Academy, which struggled during week one. The Colonels lost to Richmond Christian 46-6 in a league challenge.